Baima Temple, Luoyang, Henan
(November 1, 2011)

(1) This is the main gate of the Baima Temple compound itself. This horse (and his companion) commemorate those who allegedly carried the first Buddhist images and scriptures to China during the Han Dynasty. Baima means "White Horse."
Splurging a bit, Lila and I had taken a cab out to the temple; it cost us about the same as the cab down to our nearest shopping center! This temple is special, as it's said to be the first in China (maybe). We actually entered, not by the gate above, but by a side gate, so we saw a few things before visiting the temple back-to-front. (I have reversed the images from the grounds for more natural viewing.)

(2) The first thing my all-time favorite traveling companion noticed was that these incense sticks were taller than she was!

(3) The Indian government paid for the construction of this stupa (pagoda) on the Baima Temple property. Dedicated in 2010, it's inspired by the famous Buddhist structure at Sanchi in India.

(4) On the outside of the stupa are numerous bas reliefs. At the time Sanchi was built (3rd century BCE) the Buddha was not shown in human form. Rather, his image was "aniconic," represented by footprints, a riderless horse (with a royal umbrella), a seat, a tree, or, as here, a dharma wheel. All of these can be seen on the stupa at Baima Si; here is the wheel.

(5) This Buddha is seated inside the Indian stupa, and was also a gift from India.

(6) Next to the Indian stupa, a Thai temple compound is being built.

(7) Inside the hall shown, this workman was applying mortar to the rough-cast image of Garuda.

(8) Behind the compound is this "ta yuan" (pagoda area), presumably original to Baima Si.

(9) We have now entered the temple grounds proper; the shots above were taken outside the compound. This image and the next are on steles that stand on the east and west walls just inside the main gate. They represent Kashyapamtanga and Dharmaraksha, two monks from India who are supposed to have come here in 64 CE, making this the oldest Buddhist temple in China.

(10) The other "founder." The story of their arrival is filled with inconsistencies, and is doubted by most scholars.

(11) Nevertheless, this mound and another like it are said to be the burial places of these two emissaries from "the West."

(12) In the temple's first hall is this unique Laughing Buddha. Dating back to the Ming Dynasty, he was made by applying silk and other materials over a sand and clay form; lacquering the materials; and removing the form from inside.

(13) I have never seen a Buddha Hall like this. There is a platform (scalable by stairs on the sides) over the top of the altar; the monk called it a fo kang. "Fo" probably means "Buddha"; I can't guess what the "kang" is. Directly over the Buddha's head is a deliciously gruesome demon.

(14) A couple of ancient monks chanting inside the Sutra Repository. There was chanting all over the place today. We had heard that this was a particularly "strict" temple, but except in the Great Buddha Hall where the main ceremony was, we were free to enter and shoot virtually everywhere (even over the heads of monks in ceremonies!)

(15) This is Vairocana, my personal Buddha, and a funny thing happened. Six or eight monks were seated in this hall, and they were between chants, so we chatted for a minute. I asked (although I knew the answer) if Vairocana (Chinese Piluzhena) was not also the Great Sun Buddha (Da Ri Rulai)? A monk said "no." Another asked the group, "Then who is Da Ri Rulai?" and a senior, trying not to reveal to me that he was contradicting the first guy, gave a slight nod, a surreptitious gesture, and a shift of the eyes to the figure on the altar, indicating they were indeed one and the same--in a way that might save that poor monk's face!

(16) This is Konghai (Japanese Kukai), also called Hongfa Dashi (Kobo Daishi). He came from Japan in the Tang Dynasty to study in Chang'an (Xi'an), and presumably passed this way. I completed an 88-temple pilgrimage in Japan dedicated to him almost 10 years ago, on November 14, 2001.

(17) Lila shoots the Buddha in a museum inside the temple.

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Last Updated August 9, 2019

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